Now that the shortlist has been announced for this year’s Mercury Prize, the fun part of the process can begin. No, not rooting for Adele, PJ Harvey, Anna Calvi, James Blake, or whichever of the 12 finalists you think made the best U.K. album of the last year. The best part is grumbling and grandstanding about which underrated artists should have gotten the nod. Here are five overlooked albums Hive would have like to have seen nominated.
1. Yuck: Yuck
Just in time for those think pieces about the 20th anniversary of 1991 — “The Year Punk Broke,” as per the alt-rock era’s definitive documentary — this London-based quartet drop sludgy riffs, vaguely angsty lyrics, and Nirvana-grade hooks. If this band were a gimmick, singer Daniel Blumberg would have named it Dinosaur Jr. Jr. With a name like Yuck, it’s got to be good.
2. Cat’s Eyes: Cat’s Eyes
When the Horrors arrived on the scene a few years back, jaded critics dismissed them as cheapo Cramps rip-offs. While they weren’t entirely wrong, the quintet took a major step forward with Primary Colours, switching gears from grinding garage noise to epic shoegaze pop. Singer Faris Badwan defies expectations once again with Cat’s Eyes, his collaboration with Italian-Canadian soprano Rachel Zeffira. The duo does Phil Spector pop with a side of Spaghetti Western, and when Zeffira’s on the mic, she aims her six-shooter straight for the heart.
3. SBTRKT: SBTRKT
As his alias — an abbreviated version of the word “subtract” — suggests, London DJ and producer Aaron Jerome is all about minimalism. His self-titled debut gets by on skeletal beats and throbbing bass, although there’s also an abundance of hooks. Some call it “post-dubstep,” and whether that’s true, it sounds like the beginning of something.
4. Wild Beasts: Smother
This artsy four-piece was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2010, just after releasing its sophomore effort, Two Dancers. With Smother, the group has returned with what critics agree is a dreamy, mature grower of an album reminiscent of Talk Talk. Some listeners have struggled to get past singer Hayden Thorpe’s operatic yelp, but on lead single “Albatross,” it’s elegant and understated.
5. Africa HiTech: 93 Million Miles
Was it the album’s official Aussie passport that left Africa HiTech off the list? Steve Spacek’s move to Sydney to collaborate with Mark Pritchard may have turned off those who regard him as proper Brit space-age-soul’s flag-bearer; or maybe its that Miles grins too many riddim teeth for Mercury voters. Still, if there’s a global electronic beat style that doesn’t get play here, we can’t think of one. And if grooves like the Dre-meets-Earthtone III-at-Rinse.FM “Do U Wanna Fight” don’t spell a-f-r-o-f-u-t-u-r-i-s-m the right way, nothing does.
-additional reporting by Piotr Orlov